8th Graders Flock to Fair, Explore High Schools

CMSD 8th graders flock to fair-explore high schools

Photo courtesy of CMSD NEWS BUREAU


When it comes to deciding which high school to attend, CMSD wants its eighth-graders to be choosy.

Cleveland is a portfolio district, offering a growing variety options to fit different needs and interests. Students can attend any school in the system as long as space is available and, in a handful of cases, they meet admissions criteria.

Options were on full display this week as the District hosted its annual High School Choice Fair on Monday through Wednesday at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center. Students who came in shifts moved among school booths during the day, and families attended for two hours Wednesday night.

Daytime traffic was heavy at the table for the John Marshall School of Information Technology, one of three small high schools launched last August at the John Marshall Campus.

Showing off a miniature robot didn’t hurt, Principal Chelsey Cook acknowledged. The table also was adorned with championship team trophies, a reminder that students at the campus still come together for interscholastic athletics.

But the eighth-graders also seemed determined to do their homework.

“Students are asking a lot of questions,” Cook said. “They are asking about college credit (available through a program at Cuyahoga Community College). They are asking about school culture. They are asking about extracurricular activities.”

Campus Coordinator Kim Wheeler touted Facing History New Tech, a unique high school that combines an emphasis on social justice with the hands-on, project-based approach of the national New Tech Network.

The school opened in 2012 and will bid farewell this year to its first seniors. Wheeler said that the school expects the first class’s graduation rate to reach 90 percent and that more than 70 percent of the seniors have been accepted by at least one college.

“I think people are starting to figure out who we are,” Wheeler said. “And we have a great story to tell.”

Lloyd Summers and Giovanny Santana went along for the yellow-bus ride Wednesday with classmates from Newton D. Baker School, but they were window shopping.

Both have been accepted at Bard High School Early College Cleveland, where students seamlessly earn a high school diploma and college associate’s degree in four years. All of the teachers are affiliated with Bard College of New York, which operates five such schools in the United States.

The two said they were open to changing their minds but would have to be overwhelmed.

“It would have to be something that offers a better opportunity than we already have,” Lloyd said.

The fair wasn’t just for CMSD’s 2,400 eighth-graders.

Gwen Hampton and her daughter, Cheyla, walked the Wolstein Center concourse on Wednesday night. Cheyla, a charter school student, has visited a Catholic high school, but Gwen said she and her daughter are leaning toward CMSD’s Design Lab Early College, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) school where students can earn college credits while working on their high school diplomas.

“They are really hands-on. It’s easier to learn,” Cheyla said. “If someone is standing in front of me talking about something, I don’t comprehend as much as if I am looking at it, touching it.”

The fair marked the start of choice season for high schools and K-8 and PreK-8 schools. If a school is full after March 16, seats will be filled by lottery.

Choosing the right high school is critical. Ninth grade is a pivotal year that can determine whether a student graduates ready for college or a career or even stays in school.

Finding the right fit causes students to feel more comfortable a school, which in turn helps stabilize the enrollment, Kevin Alin, director of school choice and enrollment, told the Board of Education on Tuesday. Last year, nine out of 10 eighth-graders “actively told the District which high school they wanted to attend.”

“Choosing your school matters,” Alin said. “That’s a really important concept for us to sell.”

The District publishes a High School Choice Book, with information on 32 schools. And on Monday, it activated a new registration portal for all grades, choosecmsd.org.

The portal:

  • allows new families to log in and make a choice. In the past, families who were new to the District had to register students in person.
  • includes an interactive map that shows schools and proximity to students’ homes.
  • lists academic data and “conditions for learning” scores – student ratings for safety, support and academic rigor.
  • allows parents to stay up to date by registering for email and text messaging.
  • lets families choose and rank up to eight choices, an increase from the previous limit of five.

Alin said more than 300 families used the portal in the first 72 hours.

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